The British-backed Saudi war in Yemen continues, with a humanitarian crisis threatening tens of millions of people with hunger and disease, and aid programmes being shut down due to underfunding by international donors. Backroom negotiations on ending the war are reported to be taking place between Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels, with Iraq now offering to be a mediator, while the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen faces internal tensions and protests against poor living conditions. At least the FSO Safer oil tanker is being unloaded of its 1.1mn barrels of oil.
Meanwhile, the British government is free to continue supplying Saudi Arabia’s brutal air war in Yemen as a result of a high court ruling against the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) on 6 June. Two high court judges decided that over 400 violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) by Saudi-led forces did not amount to a ‘concerning pattern’.
Back in 2020, CAAT said: ‘The government may think that the widespread destruction of schools, hospitals and homes can be dismissed as “isolated incidents” but we do not.’ The court seems to have agreed with the government.
Yemen has over 4.5 million internally displaced people and over 80 percent of its total population of over 34 million is facing some level of food insecurity. According to the UN, more than 21.6mn Yemenis will be dependent on some kind of humanitarian aid in 2023.
However, at the end of May, the UN plan for helping the 17.3mn most vulnerable people was only 29.1 percent funded, forcing aid organisations to reduce or close critical assistance programmes.
There were mass protests in July in Aden against the Southern Transitional Council (STC) government, which is backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an ally of Saudi Arabia. Signs that were reported included: ‘We want bread, water, and power’, ‘No to corruption’ and ‘Down with the STC’.
At least one disaster may be avoided. In late July, satellite photographs showed that a UN oil tanker (renamed the Yemen) had begun to take oil off the rusting FSO Safer, which has been a ticking environmental timebomb since 2015 (PN 2665).
Ghiwa Nakat, executive director for Greenpeace MENA, pointed out that ‘it is we the people that are footing the bill and not the polluters.’
Oil companies have only contributed $12mn out of the $114mn pledged so far for the operation in the UN crowdfunding appeal.
Greenpeace pointed out that five of the oil companies that had been using the FSO Safer to store oil earned $35bn in profits... in just three months in mid-2022.